IMG_1145On 30th May this year I made a decision to contact Rob Whitfield to find out his thoughts on my potential to compete in a men’s physique competition…….yes at 47! A long term plantar fasciitis injury had left me re-evaluating personal goals and challenges, and this was the route I decided to go down.

Rob is a respected conditioning coach with a good record of producing results with clients, and is himself a competitive bodybuilder.

IMG_1145My initial enquiry related to competing in 2018, but Rob suggested that I could compete in Cardiff in September this year, as I wasn’t in bad nick for an old man and pretty lean at the time, weighing at 71kg (11stone 2lb). I decided to give it a go and see where 3 months training and strict dieting would get me!


My partner Karen had been working with Rob as her online coach for the past 3 months and had seen some significant body changes with Rob’s training and nutrition plan, along with her hard training and dedication to the strict diet. Karen would also be competing at the Wales show.

The training plan was based on a legs/push/pull workout, eg  Monday legs, Tuesday chest, shoulders, triceps, Wednesday, back and biceps. These were followed by a rest day and then repeat. There were 3 rotations, with different exercises and rep ranges for each body part on each rotation.

My diet was strict, not too outside of the structured way I ate normally but now I had specific quantities which meant weighing the food, and timings of meals throughout the day.

I had to check in with Rob on a Wednesday and Saturday with my weight, front and back photos, and a summary of how the diet and training were going, energy levels and any upcoming events.

IMG_1529IMG_1507I got stuck into the training, hard going to get used to after a few years doing triathlons and fit around work, same for everybody on that score though. The cardio of 90 minutes per week was taken up swimming, due to us entering the Ten Foot swim prior to this goal


The Ten Foot swim was a great day, challenge and achievement, but was also good to get done so the sole focus could be on Cardiff. I switched my cardio to running 3 x 30 mins per week to work alongside the training.

Coming in to this process late, my diet went quickly to prep phase. The carbohydrates in my diet were reduced incrementally as the weeks passed to help reduce body fat, but protein kept high to maintain muscle.

Show day quickly arrived, final weigh in had me at 66.5kg, the weight loss most definitely coming from fat%. Breakfast followed by a very nervous drive up to Cardiff. We registered and went to get our spray tan. Removing body hair and having a spray tan was a first on both counts for me, but a requirement to enter. After being sprayed a lovely mahogany colour,(joke!) there was nothing else to do but eat your last chicken and rice, and wait for the show to start. I received a quick phone call from Rob to wish me all the best, stay calm, enjoy it, but to remember I was always being judged on stage.

Show time and the category’s went along quickly in a well drilled show. I waited backstage as my category came closer. It was very busy here, competitors coming off stage and waiting to go on, final preparations and pumping up.

Finally my class was called, and we stood in line looking onto the stage waiting for the previous class to be judged and placed……guess who was first in line! My heart was racing as the guys on stage came off, and our class was called, shit this was it!

CARDIFF-COMP-4-1024x683We walked to the front of the stage in line and faced the crowd and judges. I went into a front pose, shaking like mad, while trying to smile and tell myself to keep calm. The judges kept us there for what seemed like an eternity before they called the first quarter turn to the right. I went through my quarter turns which I had practised so hard, until we faced the front again. We were moved about a bit for comparisons, then all left the stage, while the judges picked the top 3.

Solo Routine!
Solo Routine!

We waited briefly and then my number was called…… I had to go back on to stage and perform a solo routine! I came on and walked along a marked line along the back, then straight down towards the judges (T Walk), going through my quarter turns again

Routine over and I waited to the side of the stage while the other 2 guys were called on for their routines, but remembering what Rob said about being judged all the time.

We were all called into line for the final result. 3rd place……Gerald Brace! A mixture of amazement at placing in my first ever show, and relief at getting through it without cocking up big time or fainting came over me. 2nd and 1st places were called, we were all presented with a nice trophy, and all of us had an invite to the British Finals in October!

I came off and waited for Karen as her category was next. She looked amazing and breezed through her routine, placing second. We got changed and left St.Davids Hall for a well-deserved burger and chips, which tasted unbelievable after weeks of a strict diet.

Reflection:- I’m so glad I went through with the decision to enter, a completely new challenge which tested my self-discipline, commitment, dedication and patience to the limit. The training was hard, but the diet is where the real battle lies. The endless weighing and preparation of food along with exclusion of certain foods can be monotonous, but the results come with consistency, and are worth the effort.

I won’t be going to the British finals in October. It would be a big step up from a qualifying competition and have been advised to enter a show in April next year if I wanted to continue. For now I will happily take placing 3rd!

So would I do it all again? Undecided at present………who knows what will be next!




With Christmas day over, the lull between Boxing day and New Year’s Eve will highlight the over indulgence of food and alcohol with lingering hangovers,  slumped on the sofa with a mountain of quality street still to get through. As the plans for the final assault on your body are made regarding the New Year’s Eve bash, thoughts turn to 2017, and what self-improvements we can make.……. Enter the famous “New Year’s Resolution”.

According to findings in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, approximately 50 percent of the population make resolutions each New Year. Among the top resolutions are weight loss, exercise, stopping smoking, better money management and debt reduction.

Unfortunately statistics show that almost 80% of all New Year’s Resolutions fail, with many not making it to the end of January. So why is it that the New Year’s resolutions we set ourselves fail to achieve their intended outcome?

The Oxford Dictionary definition of “Resolution” is “A firm decision to do or not to do something” “A formal expression of opinion or intention”. So a firm decision or intention. And here lies the downfall. A resolution is not a goal.

If we focus on weight loss and exercise, a common resolution would be: “I’m going to lose weight and tone up in 2017”. Okay, so what’s the plan to achieve this? How much weight do you intend to lose? When are you going to lose it by? And what does tone up mean?!!

A far better method than resolutions are to set some New Year’s “SMART” Goals:-

SPECIFIC:-Make it a clear single goal that’s relevant to you… eg.”I want to lose 4lbs of weight by 31st January.

MEASURABLE:- You’re going to need recording methods to measure progress….Take photos, waist/hip measurements, weigh once a week on the same day first thing, and keep a daily food diary.

ACHIEVEABLE: – The goal has to be achievable. Wanting to lose 2 stone in 4 weeks is a nice thought, but realistically out of reach in a healthy lifestyle change approach. Health based weight loss is 1-2lb per week, so a 4lb weight loss is achievable, while making small changes to your diet and activity.

REALISTIC: – What are you going to do to achieve the weight loss, dietary changes and activity/exercise?

Examples of this: If you drink a large glass of wine a night and attempt to go tee-total, you may not be ready for such a big change. Reducing wine consumption to one small glass, 3 nights a week will help you break the drinking habit gradually, while saving yourself hundreds of calories per week. Another example could be to exchange the packet of crisps at 10am each day, for a piece of fruit 3 days per week.

Equally if you’re inactive, then running 12 miles per week is completely out of reach. A realistic option could be to walk for 30 minutes, 3-5 days per week, and build up to walk/jogging a mile, or join an exercise class!

TIMESCALED:-Is the timescale relevant for the goal to be achieved? Too far away, and the chances are you’ll lose interest. Make small goals to begin with which are not too distant and can be re-evaluated and built on when initial success is achieved.

Set yourself some SMART goals for 2017!  You’ll have a far greater prospect of adherence and success than resolutions!

Be patient, consistent and dedicated!

Happy New Year!!


Sugar Tax

George Osborne has introduced the sugar tax on soft drinks, which will be introduced in 2018, to tackle child obesity.  There will be two categories of taxation, one for total sugar above 5g per 100ml and a second higher band for drinks with more than 8g per 100ml.

With Coca Cola at the high end of the levy, a standard can costing around 70 pence would have an 8 pence tax placed on it.  High street coffees, teas and milk shakes will not be subject to the tax due to the health benefits of milk!  So a Starbucks Coffee with more sugar than a can of coke is ok?!

The sweetener is that money raised from the tax will provide funding for primary school sport.  But will a sugar tax actually work?

Mexico, with one of the world’s worst weight problems, introduced a 10% sugar tax on sugary drinks in 2014; with sales falling by 12% in its first year.

Denmark, however, introduced a tax on foods high in saturated fat in 2011.  A year later it abolished the tax stating it encouraged customers to cross to Germany to shop and failed to change eating habits.  Plans to introduce a sugar tax were scrapped as a consequence.

Obcola bottlesesity currently costs the NHS £5.1 Billion per year with children and teenagers consuming 3 times the recommended level of sugar.  Mr Osbourne stated that “At present five year old children are consuming their bodyweight in sugar every year.”

So maybe we need to look at the role of the parent in all this.  Parents have a responsibility to provide a healthy nutritious diet for their child’s growth and development.  Healthy eating and drinking habits adopted in early years stand a good chance of following through into teenage and adult life, reducing the risk of health problems such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.  Parents are also role models, children learn by example.  An environment of healthy meals, fresh food being prepared and available along with an active family lifestyle will go a long way to the child forming these habits to carry through to later life.  Involving children in the meal preparation process and zinging some water up with pieces of fresh fruit are a couple of examples.

The parent having some degree of control over what children eat and drink, along with the portion size is also important; it’s caring to say No if need be.  Day’s out such as a trip to the cinema is generally associated with treats while watching the film but does a small child really need 2 litres of coke they can barely carry?!

It’s yet to be seen if the sugar tax on sugary drinks will have a positive effect on children’s health and obesity.  Sweet drinks are an easy, convenient way to consume a lot of sugar and calories quickly.  If a tax on it raises money to go towards junior sport then that can only be a good thing.  My fear is that there are always cheaper versions of the branded sugar drinks, which a levy will have little impact on.

Education is key to tackling this problem and the government and schools along with other relevant health professional’s (including me!) have their part to play.  Equally everyone has a responsibility to educate themselves; there is plenty of information available such as the NHS website for ideas eg the food plate.

Sugar is found in many food types aside from drinks and it will always come down to excess calories consumed outweighing energy expenditure that will result in weight gain and obesity.  There is nothing wrong with the odd can of coke and chocolate bar, if the main stay of your diet is formed from healthy nutritious food.   It all comes back to that one word…… Balance.

(References:- The Guardian, Telegraph, Mail online)